While some fans have been complaining about the pacing of the season thus far, many found it readily apparent that it was all leading to open conflict between Jacob, his rival, and more importantly, their followers. This episode is the first such clash, and it is remarkably brutal. More so, because it sends one very popular original survivor of Oceanic 815 into a very dark direction.
Much like the previous character-centric episodes of the season, the contrast between âLost Primeâ and âLost Xâ seems to be how the characters have chosen to address the flaws of their nature. In âLost Xâ, Kate embraces the criminal side of her nature, Locke has come to terms with his paralysis and limitations, and Jack has found the strength to face his lifelong feelings of inadequacy.
Sayid X is a more complicated man. Itâs not so much that he has overcome the violence in his heart or the darkness in his soul. If there is a message to this episode, itâs that Sayid was never going to be able to run from what he has become. Rather, it is a question of what would drive Sayid to utilize those unfortunate skills. In âLost Xâ, itâs a threat against his family and the woman he loves, even if she is his brotherâs wife. Only that is worth another stain on his soul.
In âLost Primeâ, Sayidâs has been locked in a cycle of violence since the start of the series. In many cases, he tried to move past such tactics, but ultimately, they became something of a default. In the first half of the story, it was in service to survival and the hope of returning to Nadia. Since her death, it has been a growing nihilism within Sayid, a sense that there is no reason to try to rise above his worst impulses.
In short, it all comes down to Nadia. In âLost Xâ, Sayid made the conscious choice to sacrifice his own happiness for her best interests. In a certain sense, Sayid has chosen an honorable path, not unlike a samauri or similar iconic warrior figure. In âLost Primeâ, Sayid has been consistently focused on his own needs, and in the end, his desire to regain what he has lost, no matter how unlikely or questionable such a thing might be, has fully corrupted him.
Much like Sawyer, Sayid has been manipulated by Jacobâs rival through the apparent offer of a choice. Itâs so methodical that it must be something that Jacobâs rival has been doing for quite some time. Jacobâs rival knows that Jacob is manipulating people and events to bring them to the island as Candidates, and he uses that fact to his advantage. He reveals the truth (or selective parts of it) to the Candidates and pushes them to make a choice based on that information, knowing that the likely response is rejection of Jacobâs design.
This episode is a perfect example of that offer and subversion of choice. Jacobâs rival tells the residents of the Temple that they must either leave and join him, or die at sundown. For those with a strong sense of loyalty to Jacob and an apparent understanding of the nature of the conflict, the choice to die rather than join Jacobâs rival may be a good one.
But for the majority of the residents of the Temple (and therefore the majority of the Others), there has never really been a choice. Itâs been more dogmatic. The Others are the chosen of Jacob, and therefore, they are more than happy to assume that anyone not chosen by Jacob must be expendable. That has been the treatment of non-Others since the beginning, from Dharma to Danielle to the survivors of Oceanic 815. They assume they are âthe good guysâ, and they act accordingly.
Itâs really something akin to blind faith, and between Jacobâs death and the release of Jacobâs rival, that faith has been shattered. Now there is doubt, and the fear that comes with it. Enter the ultimatum, and suddenly the choice to live becomes a driving force. Even if it seems like they are not being given much of a choice, by the apparent rules of the game, itâs enough of a willing allegiance to matter.
What is clear is that Jacob is the one who brings people to the Island. Jacobâs rival does not want people there. What Jacob and his rival are arguing about, in terms of who is right or wrong, is not at all clear yet. Thus far, it looks as though Jacob needs to bring the Candidates to the island on a regular basis so he can find a replacement. If there are no people on the island, then Jacob cannot have a replacement. That ends the conflict.
While there are still some indications that there is a predestination/free will conflict at play, that may be a false impression. After all, as mentioned in previous reviews, it doesnât quite mesh with the actions of Jacobâs rival in previous episodes, particularly his penchant for judgment. That judgment always seemed to come when people (like, for example, Mr. Eko) were unwilling to transcend their internal flaws and seek redemption.
Much of this final season is pointing back to the first season. Also, âLost Xâ seems to be a timeline in which the familiar survivors of Oceanic 815 have found a way to achieve some peace of mind without Jacobâs interference. Taking that into account, there may be an explanation for the philosophical difference of opinion between Jacob and his rival.
A major theme of the series has been redemption. For the characters, the island has always been something of a crucible: they are confronted, by whatever means, by their own greatest weaknesses. It always seemed as though the island, in some sense, was offering the chance to wipe the slate clean and find a new, better path. It always came down to that choice to change and grow.
That suggests that the conflict may simply be a difference of opinion on the base quality of humanity itself. In other words, Jacob may feel that human beings have the potential to rise above their flaws and weaknesses and become something better. That may be a pre-condition for whoever might replace him.
Jacobâs rival, on the other hand, clearly indicts humanity on their inability to change. This ties right back into that conversation in âThe Incidentâ: Jacob sees progress with each new group of test subjects/Candidates, and his rival denounces the process as proof of humanityâs innate flaw. That would imply that itâs not destiny vs. free will, but rather, a conflict over whether or not humanity has what it takes to make the right decisions with the free will they have been given.
That resolves many apparent contradictions, and aligns the whole of the series arc with the current events. For example, it now makes sense that Jacob was telling Ben that he had a choice at the end of âThe Incidentâ; he was trying to push Ben to make the right choice. Whereas Jacobâs rival is simply pushing people to follow their darkest impulses. Jacobâs rival appears to be pushing people by appealing to their basest expression of self-interest, to eliminate those he cannot kill (the Candidates, it seems), and then he will likely wipe out everyone on his own side before leaving the island himself.
So where does Charles Widmore come into the equation? If Jacobâs rival controlled Ben, then wouldnât it make sense that Jacob would have influenced Widmore? After all, Widmoreâs goal was to capture Ben Linus and kill everyone else. Based on the rules, that would have left the conflict between Jacob and his rival at the usual status quo; Jacob would just have to find another group of Candidates at some later time.
On the other hand, perhaps there are no other Candidates. Perhaps that is why all those names were on the wheel at the Lighthouse; at least some of those names had to be from previous groups of people brought to the island. Maybe that is what Jacob meant when he spoke about âprogressâ: that each group of potential Candidates, when lost to the inevitable conflicts, brought them closer to the point when Jacob could be replaced.
Whatever the case, this definitely brought the introductory phase of the final season to a close. Now things are set to get more complicated. That may seem like a foregone conclusion when it comes to âLostâ, but itâs all relative. The real question is: after an episode as strong as this, can the rest of the season measure up?
Overall, this episode was a turning point, both in terms of the season arc and in terms of the conflict between Jacob and his rival. For fans of Sayid, it had to be difficult to accept, but the writers are being consistent with where the characters began. If nothing else, it is clear that this story is unlikely to have a happy ending.